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Do teens matter in national politics?

January 15, 2008|By DYLAN THACKSTON / Pulse Correspondent

There are a lot of questions that I hear from teens who are into politics like I am. One big complaint I hear from teens is how they feel ignored by politicians and make no difference in elections before they are 18, old enough to vote.

It seems, at first, like there is really nothing we can do, because, heck, voting is the only thing that counts, right?

Well, no, actually, it isn't.

For ideas, I asked some teens. They had a few ideas about how teens too young to vote can make their voices heard in the up-coming elections.

Danielle Manos, 15, attends Linganore High School, east of Frederick, Md. I asked her if she thought we - teens not yet 18 years old - matter to candidates running for president.

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"I can see how they would want to appeal to just voters," Danielle said. Asked about ideas on what teens could do to make themselves heard to national politicians, she thought there would be strength in numbers. "Maybe we should make a kind of organization to appeal to politicians about teen concerns," she said.

Kelsey Hannah, a 16-year-old home-schooler living in Smithsburg, had a slightly different idea of things.

"I don't think the (candidates for) president could care less about us," Kelsey said. "They just want to be in charge of something ... like a whole country." And when I asked her what she thought we might need to do to make our voices heard, she said one thing: "Revolt."

Kate Pickett, a 14-year-old student at Linganore High, was likewise cynical about candidates' attention to young teenagers.

"I think politicians go for the mass of voting people, and care less about pre-voting teens." But she didn't think it was hopeless to try. She said that if teens just try one way of making their voices heard, it might not work. Trying multiple avenues with more candidates has a better chance of working, Kate said.

Perhaps there are more ways of getting yourself heard then just starting an organization for pre-voting teens. Alternatives to consider include calling your candidate, volunteering for one candidate in the weeks before Maryland's presidential primary on Feb. 12, writing letters to newspaper editors, sending e-mails to friends on behalf of one candidate and participating in protests if you feel strongly about a topic.

There are many ways for teens to be heard, even teens who are too young to vote. So, you want to make a difference in politics? Get out there and do something about it.

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